Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is this "Sustainable"?

I recently was exposed to this chart during a presentation by Niel Dierks of the National Pork Producers Council. The ramifications are quite challenging to me as I discuss my Christian worldview in this blog.

What would I say if this were a chart of the number of bacteria in a bottle of wine. I would say without hesitation that this kind of growth can not go on, it is "unsustainable". Eventually, the bacteria will use up all the available nutrients and the population will crash. Hopefully, for the person drinking the wine, this crash will be all the way back to zero.

If this were a chart of the price of shoes for my wife, I would say very quickly, that this price rise cannot go on. At some point, purchasers just can not be found and the price of the shoes will decline. I would say that this price activity is "unsustainable".

But this isn't a chart of bacteria, or shoe prices. This is a chart of the number of people in the world!

If I conclude that this kind of growth is "unsustainable" I am faced with a challenge. The chart simply screams at me that there is an unavoidable disaster headed straight at us. The environmental and population control movements are motivated by the undeniability of this chart. Somehow, the number of people in the world is going to be limited by the availability of resources (food, fuel, shelter, etc) or human actions (population control, war, or whatever).

How is a Christian worldview to look at this?

I don't want the people of the earth to suffer the same fate as the wine bacteria but I abhor war and population control as solutions since I believe both offend God.

I suppose the first thing I recognize when confronted with the inevitable panic induced by this chart is that from my Christian perspective the world's resources aren't limited. Since I believe that the earth was created by God from absolutely nothing and that God is still closely involved in man's lives, He is perfectly capable of providing for all of my needs. Indeed, He has demonstrated this ability many times, and often will allow us to get ourselves into rediculous positions just to see if we are willing to depend on Him for provision. The Isrealites wondering around in the wilderness, surviving on manna, are a classic example. (Genesis chapter 16). That is not to say we should use resources carelessly, quite the opposite is true, but that we need to recognize what the chart does not. There are more resources available to the human condition than just those we can harvest from the earth.

The second recognition of my Christian heart to this chart is the future. I believe there is an end to this earth and in many ways it is dreadful and unpretty. The biblical book of Revelation is hard to understand but even a simple hog farmer like me can see that it is talking about a world in chaos, disaster, and dreadful death and despair. The bright light through it all is the promise of a new Heaven and a New Earth to those who believe and endure. There are many understandings of all the events in Revelation, but the picture of chaos followed by Christ restoring order by bringing new resources to the situation is undeniable.

So I see this chart as a call to stewdship of resources with a levelheaded recognition of an impending end. We need to be prepared for the end personally, spiritually. This chart is a call to repentance and dependence on God. It is not a call to desperation and panic.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Who Leads on Animal Rights?

A facebook friend recently ask a question that I find interesting on several levels. A portion of the question was something to the effect of, "Why aren't Christians leading the fight for Animal Rights?"

In order to side step the whole question of, "Who is a Christian?"  I would like to replace "Christian" with "People with a Judeo Christian Worldview". I have detailed in other blog posts my thoughts about what a Judeo Christian Worldview is so I will not repeat it here. I will simply say that to give animals "rights" in the sense that humans have "rights" from the Creator is to step outside of the Judeo Christian Worldview as I understand it.

I would rather focus on the interesting topic of "leadership".

Leadership of  a movement requires "followers". In order to have "followers" it is necessary to be trustworthy. If people do not trust someone they will not follow them very long. If a leader loses the trust of his/her followers the ability to lead disappears into thin air. So to lose "trust" is to lose "leadership".

Let's take these ideas and look at the "animal rights" movement. Traditionally, animals have been cared for by individuals called "farmers". "Farmers" were down to earth people that society "trusted" to take care of animals. Over time farmers have developed larger and larger organizations, as a response to market economics, that look and act much like corporations. Indeed, these organizations are quite frankly corporations, albeit they are many times owned solely by one farmer and his family.

Corporations have a reputation of being driven by money for the benefit of their investors. Traditionally, corporations have not enjoyed anything like the level of trust that "farmers" have had. It is just hard to get your mind around the idea that a corporation can be as caring and nurturing as a farmer. Again, quite frankly, corporations have done many things to earn this reputation. They try very hard to earn your trust and be trustworthy, but they just aren't as comfortable as someone with skin on.

Somewhere in this growth toward a corporate structure there is a "tipping point" in our willingness to extend trust to the farmer and concerns for the animals begin to boil up.When the "tipping point of trust" is discovered farmers lose their ability to lead issues related to animal care. Exactly where this tipping point is varies for each person based on a whole host of things I suppose. But it certainly seems to exist.

Now bring into the thought that there are people who long ago reached their tipping point and are motivated to move that point in their direction and you will begin to see the modern "animal rights" movement. You will see a group of people organized, surprisingly, as a corporation, dedicated to moving this tipping point of trust in their direction. To this end every opportunity is taken to show that farmers are not trustworthy. Every misstep is highlighted. Every emotion manipulated. No stone is left unturned in an effort to break the bond of trust between the farmer and the consumer in a desire to move the tipping point.

Farmers are starting to realise the need to pull back on the tipping point by giving consumers more reasons for trust. They are responding in multiple ways through social media, traditional media, increased transparency, inspections, and even legal rule making. All in an effort to pull the tipping point of trust in their direction.

Just some more to think about.

Thank you for your thought.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oprah's Vegan Week is about Food

So, the news today is, Oprah (and her staff) are going "vegan" for a week. I wonder how deeply she has thought about and researched this lifestyle? What are the thoughts/beliefs that this lifestyle is built upon? Many of the posts on this "blog sight" try to deal with this very issue. I would encourage any reader, especially, Oprah (and her staff) to spend their "vegan week" thinking about some of these posts. The foundations of "veganism" lead to a very disappointing and sad end to the human soul.

I want to discuss a claim that, "In America 1% (+/-) of the people feed everyone else plus a bunch of the rest of the world." The thought first came to me Sunday as I listened to the pastor's sermon. The text was Christ's discussion of the church being a vine and how God maintains that vine (the gospel of John chapter 15). My thought may or may not be related to the text.

John 15 (New International Version, ©2011)

John 15

The Vine and the Branches
 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.    5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
   9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.


My thought is that the 1% are being a little arrogant and short sighted in their claim. We in agriculture couldn't do what we do without the other 99% doing what they do. We are all dependent on each other as a society for food, fiber, and energy.

Don't we all have one very basic need in common? Food. The most basic question each of us asks, at some level, everyday is, "What is there to eat". Throughout history the strength of a society has always been determined by how well they could answer that question. Society says, "We must have food before we can do anything else." If everyone must spend all day, every day, trying to get food there is no time for education, science, philosophy, art, construction, etc.. Think of the TV show "survivor", or a PBS show about the adventurers (Doner, Greeley, Pilgrims, Jamestown, pioneers, etc.). The first job is "Find Food". The history of war usually pivots on this issue. The medieval siege was about food. Napoleon in Russia was about food. The battle for the Atlantic was about food. The Berlin airlift was about food.

In the U.S. we are blessed with a societal system that has been able to "free" enormous numbers of people from the task of "Find food" to do other things. Some, I would argue, all, of these things contribute to the production and availability of still more food. I can not think of a job field that does not impact agriculture. Manufacturing is absolutely essential for the machines. Petroleum is essential for energy, fertilizer, and chemicals. Electronics power everything. The list is endless and I can't begin to realise the connections.

The point is that we, every American, should be, and can be, involved in the answer to society's most basic question, "What is there to eat?" because we are all part of the same vine.

I am of course overlooking that part of the sermon that deals with those parts of the vine that are not helping. That would be another point for Oprah (and her staff) to ponder.

Thank you for your thought.